In the wake of Monday’s tragic news, my plan was to support the Sparks NV community by writing a post describing some of my delightful visits to that city. Somehow, however, this doesn’t seem like the right time or place.
Along with the rest of the world, I was shocked to learn that a middle school student brought a gun to school and used it to murder a beloved eighth grade math teacher, to seriously wound two fellow students and then to kill himself.
The media is full of speculation about how this happened, but there seem to be more questions than answers at this point.
Where did the child get the gun? The news stories are assuming that he brought it from home, that it belonged to his parents and that he somehow had access to it.
What would drive a 12 year old to such extremes of violence? The word “bullying” is being bandied about as if it were a dirty little secret that may be spoken of only in whispers.
Meanwhile, the national gun control debate has once again bubbled to the surface as if to rip open the scars over an all too recent wound.
Columbine. Virginia Tech. Sandy Hook. Sparks.
Year after year, the school murders reappear in the headlines. And each time it happens, we are shocked all over again, as if it were happening for the first time. And we mourn. We grieve with the families of the victims, the students and parents and teachers who will never again be the same, the communities that are sent reeling.
We talk about how this horror could have been avoided and what we can do to prevent there being a next time. But then there is a next time.
Should armed guards stand watch at all times that school is in session? Should teachers be permitted, or even required to carry firearms? Should school staff and even young students participate in “active shooter” training? Has being a kid in America really come to all of this?
The issue of providing better mental health care for our youngsters inevitably comes up. Everyone should know the signs of mental turmoil and distress (although what adolescent doesn’t experience this?). We must destigmatize mental health concerns and make it easy for students to get help.
And we talk about that old bugaboo, “bullying.” We satisfy ourselves with lip service to a zero-tolerance policy and then wonder why teachers and parents look the other way when students engage in physical, verbal and online harassment, why they teach their kids that they have to suck it up and be tough, that “sticks and stones can break your bones, but names can never harm you.”
As the weeks go by, the tragedy at Sparks Middle School will slowly be forgotten, subsumed into our increasingly jaded collective national conscience. And much like issues such as the federal budget and the Electoral College, it will be “out of sight, out of mind” — until the next time (and the time after that and the time after that).
But those who were there on Monday, and their families, friends and colleagues, won’t ever be able to forget. And neither should you.
Please call upon your elected representatives on the federal, state and local levels to turn their attention to the relevant issues, and not to give up until every kid and teacher who leaves for school in the morning can be guaranteed to return home in the evening.
Do it now. So there’s not a next time.
RIP Michael Landsberry: Husband, father, Marine, math teacher, coach. Hero.